Thursday, July 30, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
My husband Wes' birthday is tomorrow, but since we found ourselves with no plans this evening, we decided to start the party early with a lovely home cooked meal: pasta with filet mignon. A true celebration meal.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Thanks for the opportunity, Mardi!
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Saturday, July 25, 2009
Monday, July 20, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
- Wine. I realize everyone can't cook with wine, and I sympathize, because wine (or champagne, beer, and spirits) adds incredible depth of flavor to everything. Wine, or stock, if you don't or can't indulge, elevates food from good to great.
- Parmesan. A sprinkle off high-quality, freshly grated parmesan adds loads of flavor to savory dishes and breads.
- Prosciutto. I'm not into ham at all, but add cubed or sliced prosciutto to just about everything: soups, salads, pastas, stews, whatever. Give me a plate of sliced prosciutto, a bit of parmesan and some melon or grapes and I'm all set.
- Acid. Citrus fruits like lemon, lime or orange, or vinegars such as balsamic, red wine, or champagne will add a bright burst of freshness that'll make your food special. Add a little squeeze or splash when you're almost done cooking soups, stews, pastas, stir-frys or almost any dish. Professional chefs extole the virtues of of acid in good food all the time.
- Good salt. Upgrading to sea salt, French fleur de sel or kosher salt gives dishes a cleaner, milder flavor. Table salt is harsh. The pros recommend using kosher salt for everyday cooking and sea salt of fleur de sel for finishing a dish. I also encourage you to experiment with flavored salts. Above, see one of my favorite flavored salts, Orange Saltburst, courtesy of my friend Abbie in Austin.
- Good oil. Investing in a small bottle of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, or other flavored oils, will enhance your cooking dramatically. You don't need to cook with it per se, simply drizzle a bit on salads or savory dishes to finish them off.
Monday, July 13, 2009
So, I'm cooking for one this week, which means it's a great time to eat breakfast for dinner. Cereal and milk? Not this time. I decided to make a feta vegetable frittata, which is basically a crustless egg, cheese and veggie pie. Apparently the French make omelettes and the Italians make frittata.
To get started, take a large, nonstick pan and saute some garlic and onion (scallions or shallots work well, too) with salt and pepper over medium or medium high heat until tender. I added a few handfuls of sliced grape tomatoes, cooked them for a few minutes, then some sliced kalamata olives and a big bunch of swiss chard, spinach, baby lettuce, basil and parsley, all from my garden, sliced in chiffonade. To do this, simply stack your leaves, roll like a cigar, slice very thinly and sprinkle in the pan. Love this technique. Mix the greens in thoroughly and spread everything evenly on the bottom of the pan.
Next, whisk about eight eggs (I used Eggland's Best, but you can use whatever kind you want, including egg whites), add a couple of tablespoons of milk or water, more salt and pepper, then pour evenly into the saute pan. Add a handful or two of crumbled feta cheese, or whatever kind of cheese you enjoy. If you're using feta, go easy on the salt in the veggie mixture and eggs, since feta is briney. Let the eggs sit in the pan for about eight minutes, until the edges are cooked but the middle is still wet. No touching!
Then, put the pan under the broiler for 1-2 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Remove, and remember to use a potholder because the handle will be blazing hot. I can't tell you how many times I've forgotten this good advice.
Allow the frittata to rest for a minute or two, slice into wedges and serve.
Frittata is delicious any time of day, and pairs well with toast or mini muffins and fruit or a green salad and a glass of crisp white wine or mimosa. It's a great brunch dish for entertaining, too. I enjoyed mine with some Rainier cherries and a slice of whole wheat toast out in the garden.
Do you eat breakfast for dinner? Doesn't everybody?
Sunday, July 12, 2009
Sounds good, yes? Yet, in the end, it was just ok. It was tasty enough, but not special. Less flavorful than I'd hoped. I was reminded that there's a reason you blend pesto ingredients together... the flavors mingle and meld and get all delicious and friendly-like.
Luckily, I had great tablemates: my mom and stepdad (husband is on the road this week). We paired the chicken with a nice green salad with tomato, avocado, basil, pine nuts, more parmesan (echoing the chicken) and balsamic vinegar, and ended the meal with fruit salad. And, we cooked and ate our meal at one of our beautiful lakefront parks, in the company of the sailboats and freighters.
I'm all for riffing on an original, and I'll keep trying until I get this one right. Next time, I'll experiment with mixing some of the ingredients before cooking the chicken instead of just layering them on separately once it's off the grill. Do you ad lib in the kitchen? Would love to hear about your successes and mishaps.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Work+kids+house+gym+yardwork+social life=not a lot of time for cooking these days. Sound familiar to you?
When this happens to me, I often to turn to pasta. It always delivers. Plus, I'm Italian, and pasta is close to my heart (as in, I could eat it at every meal).
I've mostly switched to whole wheat or brown rice pasta, but still enjoy a nice bowl of tortellini now and again. This time, I chose fresh chicken tortellini and paired it with shallots, garlic, prosciutto, baby spinach and white wine.
My secret: instead of boiling the pasta, I put the uncooked tortellini in a bowl of steaming hot water and let it sit for a few minutes. Meanwhile, I saute the shallots and garlic in olive oil, salt and pepper until soft, drain the tortellini and add it to the hot pan. Cook, stirring often, until the tortellini is lightly browned and hot. Then, add chopped prosciutto, the baby spinach and a big splash of decent white wine. Let it all simmer together until the wine reduces, serve and add freshly grated parmesan. The pasta will taste al dente-ish, and you'll save a few minutes and some extra clean-up.
Chicken tortellini with prosciutto and spinach is a complete meal in a bowl, in minutes, and you can feel good about serving it to just about anyone.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Sunday, July 5, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
Long sunny days and cool breezy nights equals strawberry season in Michigan, which means it's time to put up some preserves.